Got it!
We use cookies to enhance your experience. By continuing to visit this site you agree to our use of cookies. More info

Already a subscriber or advertiser? Enter your login information here

Saturday, 8 May 2021

FREE! Sign up for the TIE newsletter and never miss out on international school news, headlines, resources and best-practices from around the world!

28 April 2021 | It's a Journey
15 April 2021 | What have we learned?
31 March 2021 | The Time Is Now
17 March 2021 | Designing the Return
04 March 2021 | #MyFreedomDay
17 February 2021 | Revealing the Hidden Curriculum
3 February 2021 | Bring on the Mistakes

view more


Enter your email below to sign up:

Ready to subscribe and get all the features TIE has to offer? Click here >>


You are here: Home > Online Articles > Can People Be “Inoculated” Against Online Nonsense?



Can People Be “Inoculated” Against Online Nonsense?

From the Marshall Memo

By Kim Marshall


The article: “A New Way to Inoculate People Against Misinformation” by Jon Roozenbeek, Melisa Basol, and Sander van der Linden in Behavioral Scientist, February 22, 2021; the authors are at,, and

In this article in Behavioral Scientist, Jon Roozenbeek, Melisa Basol, and Sander van der Linden (University of Cambridge, U.K.) say that “misinformation – both intentional and unintentional – is difficult to fight once it’s out in the digital wild.” Viral falsehoods take on a life of their own, often sticking in people’s minds and being accepted as factual – especially if they’re repeated.

Roozenbeek, Basol, and van der Linden suggest a novel approach for preventing the spread of misinformation: prebunking – giving people the tools to resist seduction by falsehoods and avoid playing a part in spreading them. This strategy is analogous to being immunized against a disease: vaccinations expose people to a weakened dose of a pathogen to trigger the production of antibodies that fight a full-fledged onslaught of germs. Prebunking exposes people to a watered-down version of a piece of misinformation to build resistance to more-virulent manipulation.

Prebunking sounds promising, but it isn’t helpful if it’s too narrow, building resistance to only one type of junk information. How can people get better at spotting and squelching a broader spectrum? Researchers believe the best strategy is to build awareness of the most common manipulative techniques, so people understand the ways in which they are vulnerable and become savvier at pushing back. Roozenbeek, Basol, van der Linden, and their colleagues designed a series of free online games that have been played over a million times around the world:

  • Bad News – Players are exposed to six common misinformation techniques, including emotional buzzwords like “horrific” and “terrifying,” all of which get people jazzed up about spreading information.

  • Harmony Square – Produced by the Department of Homeland Security, this game targets election misinformation and puts players in the role of a “bad guy” trying to stir up conflict in a community. “There’s no better way to inoculate yourself than to walk a mile in the shoes of someone trying to dupe you,” say the authors.

  • Go Viral! – Designed in the U.K., Go Viral! focuses on Covid-19 misinformation, addressing fearmongering, using fake experts, and coming up with conspiracy theories.

The games are designed to make people realize how vulnerable they are and build the skills necessary to identify, argue against, and prevent the spread of harmful misinformation.

Roozenbeek, Basol, and van der Linden report preliminary results showing that after playing the games, people are more skeptical of manipulative social media messages, more confident in their own judgment, and less likely to share dubious information. The downsides: people need “booster shots” of game-playing because their resistance tends to atrophy; people need help identifying high-quality, credible news – perhaps they become skeptical of everything; and there’s the perennial challenging of reaching the people who would benefit most from the intervention.

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:

Nickname (this will appear with your comments)


There are currently no comments posted. Please post one via the form above.

Equity consultant Jerome Bennett and educators Jake Giessman and Jane Hubley describe how a school f ..more
Including students in shaping what will be assessed by co-constructing success criteria has proven a ..more
In this article summarized by Kim Marshall, the authors report on their study of students who don’t ..more
We Don’t Want to Talk About It
By James Toney
What Are the Elements of an Effective Global Citizenship Curriculum?
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist
Designing Curriculum for Global Citizenship
By Gordon Eldridge, TIE Columnist